A public relations expert says the Green Party have put themselves in a weakened position by not being upfront at first instance about the shoplifting allegations made against MP Golriz Ghahraman.

In the two days since the first allegation was first made public, co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson refused to comment on the matter.

On Friday they confirmed a second shoplifting accusation was made against Ghahraman, following media reports.

Shaw and Davidson say they became aware of an allegation involving Ghahraman and Scotties Boutique on 27 December, and on 5 January were informed of an alleged second incident, also at Scotties.

“Scotties had told us they did not want the allegations to become public so we did not make a statement at the time. However, Ghahraman did agree to stand down from her portfolios until the matter was resolved,” the co-leaders said.

Former National Party chief press secretary Janet Wilson said the situation has been poorly handled by the Green Party.

“I don’t think they’ve handled it well, and the reason for that is, when you have bad news to deliver, you need to be the one to deliver that bad news and to get ahead of it, otherwise you’re in defensive mode.

“You’re constantly playing catch-up in defensive mode, which is where the Green Party find themselves now, and that’s the mistake that they’ve made… where they are having to chase everyone else, chase the story as more and more comes out.”

Wilson said the reason the co-leaders have put forward for delaying comment is unconvincing.

“I’ve never heard of a political party follow the wishes of a high-end frock shop, because they didn’t want it to come out – I think that’s a very weak reason.”

RNZ understands Ghahraman is due to return from her overseas trip in the next few days, and the co-leaders will address the matter with her as soon as she returns.

Shaw and Davidson said they would not comment further until they had gathered all the facts, and spoken with Ghahraman.

In the meantime, she remains an MP but has stood aside from all of her portfolio responsibilities, including justice, foreign affairs and defence.

Wilson said Ghahraman’s silence would not serve her.

“The longer her silence is, the worse it’s going to get for her, that is an absolute reality for her.”

Wilson said Ghahraman would benefit from giving a “short, sharp, and well disciplined statement” to the public, and say what she wants to say, or make clear that she doesn’t want to comment until the end of the investigation.